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Step 4

Section 4: The SEA's 12 Step Workbook
Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous -

The SEA's Program of Recovery
By James J. Messina, Ph.D.


Step 4

We made a searching and fearless inventory of our strengths and achievements as well as of our weaknesses and failures.


Directions: As you systematically work through the twelve steps of the SEA's program, you will be expected to read the material in this section and respond to the questions in your journal. Each step contains key words or concepts, which are explored in the questions under each step. Your recovery from the negative impact of self‑esteem is dependent on your honest assessment, admission, and acceptance of the steps you need to take in order to ensure your personal recovery. Most likely over your lifetime you will need to review these twelve steps, so for later reference keep the SEA's manual along with the other Tools‑for‑Coping‑Series books in a safe place.

Inventory of strengthsIn your recovery you need to exhaustively search your personality characteristics, abilities, aptitudes, competencies, skills and knowledge, intellectual capabilities, emotional status, and behavioral habits, all positive “secret weapons'' in overcoming low self‑esteem. To make a “searching and fearless'' inventory, you must face yourself in a mirror and objectively, honestly, and directly list those strengths which actually are true for you. To help you in your inventory, consult Tools for Personal Growth Chapter 3 Self‑Affirmation. List your strengths for each of the following categories:
  • My positive personality characteristics:
  • My abilities or competencies:
  • My aptitudes or talents:
  • My skills or crafts:


I have useful knowledge about:
  • My intellectual status in comparison to the norm:
  • My positive emotional characteristics:
  • My positive behavioral patterns and habits:

Inventory of My Achievements

You may in the past have had false humility or minimized the extent to which you were successful in achieving goals, accomplishments, or recognition at school; in hobbies; in athletics; in club or groups' activities; in creative contests; on the job; in your family of origin; your current family; in significant relationships, and in your marriage.


List achievements under each of the following categories. If you are having problems with this section, consult Tools for Personal Growth, Chapter 11 Handling Fear of Success:

  • Achievements in all of the schools I attended:
  • Achievements in sports and athletics I participated in:
  • Achievements in my hobbies (crafts, arts, music, collections, etc.):
  • Achievements in my clubs, groups, civic organizations, volunteer services or church activities:
  • Achievements in the creative contests I entered:
  • Achievements on my job:
  • Achievements in my family of origin:
  • Achievements in my current family:
  • Achievements in my significant relationships:
  • Achievements in my marriage:


Once you have completed this exhaustive searching and fearless inventory, you have identified a number of potentially "hidden'' personal resources you can draw upon as you work to build up your self‑confidence and self‑belief through self‑affirmations.

Inventory of weaknesses

As a part of the work on your personal recovery, you need to make an exhaustive personal inventory of the negative consequences of your low self‑esteem. The purpose of this inventory is to identify those behaviors, feelings, attitudes, and irrational beliefs which need changing if you are ever to accomplish healing and growth in your self‑esteem. The areas in which your inventory needs to be made are: personal behavioral patterns, personal adjustment issues, interpersonal relationship issues, unresolved anger issues, control issues, self‑destructive behaviors, unresolved loss issues, and faulty communication issues.

Behavioral patterns of Low Self-Esteem

As a result of the dysfunctional experiences in your family of origin, codependent relationships and other low self‑esteem‑inducing issues, you have evolved into a compulsively driven behavioral pattern which is non‑productive for you. To assist you do this section of the inventory, refer to Laying the Foundation. The relevant chapters will be noted under each issue.


Give examples of your compulsive behavior in the following behavior patterns which are relevant for you based on the chapters from Laying the Foundation:

  • Looking good (Chapter 3):
  • Acting out (Chapter 4):
  • Pulling in (Chapter 5):
  • Entertaining (Chapter 6):
  • Troubled person (Chapter 7):
  • Enabling (Chapter 8):
  • Rescuing (Chapter 9):
  • People pleasing (Chapter 10):
  • Nonfeeling (Chapter 11):

Personal adjustment issues

To assist you with this section of the inventory, consult Tools for Personal Growth. The relevant chapters will be noted under each issue.


Irrational beliefs:

Give examples of the blocking beliefs which contribute to your weakness of character and to your personality faults and bad habits based on the chapters from Tools for Personal Growth. (Chapter 1 Self‑esteem Chapter 2 Irrational Beliefs and Chapter 3 Self‑affirmation):


Self‑defeating behaviors

Give examples for each of the following self‑defeating behaviors in your life based on the following chapters from Tools for Personal Growth:

  • Guilt (Chapter 4 Handling Guilt):
  • Mistrust (Chapter 5 Building Trust):
  • Insecurity (Chapter 6 Handling Insecurity):
  • Fear of being vulnerable (Chapter 7 Becoming Vulnerable):
  • Fear of taking risks (Chapter 8 On Becoming a Risk Taker):
  • Fear of failure (Chapter 9 Handling Fear of Success):
  • Perfectionism (Chapter 12 Overcoming Perfectionism):
  • Pride and belief that as a survivor you need to do it all on your own (Chapter 13 Handling Pride):
  • Lack of patience (Chapter 14 Developing Patience):
  • Inability to accept personal responsibility for your own actions (Chapter 16 Accepting Personal Responsibility):
  • Inability to handle stress (Chapter 17 Stress Reduction):
  • Inability to manage personal time (Chapter 18 Time Management):
  • Suffering from burnout (Chapter 19 Preventing Burnout):
  • Inability to have fun and play (Chapter 9 Little Child Within and Chapter 20 Having Fun):
  • Inability to overcome fears and phobias (Chapter 10 Overcoming Fears): 
Interpersonal relationship issues
To assist you with this section of the inventory, consult Tools for Relationships. The relevant chapters will be noted under each issue.
Give examples of each of the following self‑defeating behaviors which you have exhibited in relationships in your life:
  • Inability to overcome barriers to relationships (Chapter 1 Handling Relationship Barriers):
  • Fear of conflict (Chapter 2 Handling Conflict):
  • Poor problem solving in relationships (Chapter 3 Productive Problem Solving):
  • Fear of rejection (Chapter 4 Handling Fear of Rejection):
  • Chronic need for approval (Chapter 5 Handling the Need for Approval):
  • Lack of assertiveness (Chapter 6 Improving Assertive Behavior):
  • Chronic playing the victim or martyr (Chapter 7 Overcoming the Role of Victim or Martyr):
  • Poor handling of power and control (Chapter 8 Handling the Use of Power and Control):
  • Overly competitive (Chapter 9 Handling Competition):
  • Lack of clear goals (Chapter 10 Goal Setting in Relationships):
  • Inability to maintain intimacy (Chapter 11 Handling Intimacy):
  • Overuse of fantasy (Chapter 12 Handling a Fantasy Relationship):
  • Inability to forgive and forget (Chapter 13 Handling Forgiving and Forgetting):
  • Inability to create a healing environment (Chapter 14 Creating a Healing Environment):
  • Inability to help others see their needs for help (Chapter 15 Helping Another Person Recognize the Need for Help):

Unresolved anger issues

To assist you with this section of the inventory, consult Tools for Anger Work‑out. The relevant chapters will be noted under each issue.

Give examples for each of the anger‑related issues which have created negative consequences in your life:

  • Unresolved anger built up inside of you (Chapter 1 Anger Work‑Out):
  • Inability to show anger (Chapter 2 Blocks to Anger):
  • Feelings of depression (Chapter 3 Handling Depression):
  • Displaying or feeling hostility, sarcasm, and cynicism (Chapter 4 Handling Hostility, Sarcasm, and Cynicism):
  • Overly pessimistic and negative (Chapter 5 Pessimism and Negativity):
  • Displaying or feeling hatred (Chapter 6 Overcoming Hatred):
  • Holding resentments (Chapter 7 Handling Resentment):
  • Chronically jumping to negative assumptions (Chapter 8 Stop Jumping to Negative Assumptions):
  • Silently withdrawing in anger (Chapter 9 Silent Withdrawal):
  • Seeking revenge (Chapter 10 Eliminating Revenge):
  • Expressing violence and rage (Chapter 11 Eliminating Rage):
  • Getting easily irritated (Chapter 13 Handling Irritations):
  • Being passive aggressive (Chapter 14 Eliminating Passive Aggressiveness):
  • Inability to give or receive confrontation (Chapter 15 Handling Confrontation):
Control issues
To assist you with this section of the inventory, consult Tools for Handling Control Issues. The relevant chapters will be noted under each issue.

Give examples of the behaviors you exhibit which indicate the following control‑related issues in your life:

  • Excessive need to control other persons, places, things, and situations (Chapter 1 Handling the Need to Control)
  • Excessive use of intimidation (Chapter 2 Eliminating Intimidation):
  • Inability to keep ideals tempered in the face of the reality of life (Chapter 3 Tempering Idealism):
  • Compulsive need to fix or rescue others (Chapter 4 Overcoming the Need to Fix):
  • Compulsive need to be a caretaker of others (Chapter 5 Eliminating Caretaker Behaviors):
  • Inability to accept powerlessness (Chapter 6 Accepting Powerlessness):
  • Inability to let go of the uncontrollables and unchangeables in your life (Chapter 7 Letting Go of the Uncontrollables and Unchangeables):
  • Inability to detach from others (Chapter 8 Developing Detachment):
  • Inability to accept love of self or others in an unconditional way (Chapter 9 Unconditional Acceptance and Love):
  • Overdependency on others (Chapter 10 Eliminating Overdependency):
  • Excessive use of manipulation (Chapter 11 Eliminating Manipulation):
  • Overriding feelings of helplessness (Chapter 12 Overcoming Helplessness):
  • Suicidal thoughts and gestures (Chapter 13 Dealing with Suicide):
  • Allowing survival behaviors to isolate and alienate you from others (Chapter 14 Tempering Survival Behaviors):
  • Inability to maintain self‑control (Chapter 15 Developing Self‑Control):
Self‑destructive behaviors
To assist you with this section of the inventory, read Tools for Anger Work‑out Chapter 12 Stop Self‑Destructive Anger Responses and respond to the 100 item questionnaire.
In your journal list those self‑destructive behaviors in which you often or almost always engage:


Unresolved loss issues
To assist you with this section of the inventory, consult Tools for Handling Loss. The relevant chapters will be noted under each issue.
Give examples of the behaviors you exhibit which indicate the following loss‑related issues in your life:
  • Inability to identify the losses you experienced in your life (Chapter 1 The Loss Experience in Dysfunctional Families):
  • Overuse of denial when facing problems (Chapter 3 Dealing with Denial):
  • Overuse of bargaining when facing problems (Chapter 4 Handling Bargaining Behaviors):
  • Losing self in despair when facing problems (Chapter 6 Handling Despair):
  • Unwilling to accept change or poor adjustment to change in your life (Chapter 7 Accepting Change):
  • Inability to let go of lost people, things, and events (Chapter 8 Letting Go):
  • Fear of death (Chapter 9 Death: the Last Act of Life):


Assess the Faulty Communications in Your Current Life
To assist you with this section of the inventory, consult Tools for Communications. The relevant chapters will be noted under each issue.

Give examples of where the following faulty communications issues have caused problems in your life:

  • Inability to get in touch with your feelings and the feelings of others (Chapter 1 A Model of Effective Communications):
  • Ignoring the feelings of others (Chapter 2 Improving Listening Skills):
  • Jumping to assumptions (Chapter 4 Improving Responding Communications Skills):
  • Competition for control of thinking resulting in poor problem solving (Chapter 5 A Communications Model of Problem Solving):
  • Parallel listening, preparing what you want to say next, ignoring what the other is saying verbally and nonverbally (Chapter 3 Nonverbal Communication Issues):


Inventory of Failures
There are past events which still influence your self‑esteem today. Such events are: divorce; being fired from a job; failing a grade; loss of a boyfriend or girlfriend; unwanted pregnancy; bankruptcy; financial setbacks; school dropout; etc. Give examples of those failure events in your life which have contributed to your low self‑esteem:



As you can see, Step 4 is an exhaustive self‑assessment process of your positive and negative points. In conclusion, identify what patterns you have discovered about your behaviors as a result of performing this inventory. How will this process assist you on your road to recovery from low self‑esteem?